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Budget Impasse Continues into Second Year: Do the Governor and State Legislators have no Shame?

On February 17, 2016, Illinois Governor Rauner proposed a FY 2017 budget even though no FY 2016 budget was passed. A compilation of the extensive damage inflicted on children’s services alone was recently updated by the Fiscal Policy Center of Voices for Illinois Children, an organization that is trying to publicize how many programs have been severely impaired over this past year (Fiscal Policy Center). That enormous list is just the tip of the iceberg. A Feb. 5, 2016 Moody’s forecasts trouble not just for Illinois’ public universities’ finances in the short-term, but for their very existence going forward. This report was released just days after Chicago State University declared a state of financial emergency which will allow it to take extraordinary cost-saving measures including laying off tenured faculty. Chicago State, which has 4,500 students, had cautioned earlier that it would have to close, possibly next month. The reason? The state budget impasse has left it with no state funding for over a year.

Presenting a new FY 17 budget without addressing the failure to pass a FY 16 budget reflects just how tragically dysfunctional Illinois politics have become. In his budget address on Feb. 17, Rauner offered the Democrats, who control the General Assembly, two choices:

  1. Pass some of his Turnaround Agenda (this program include term limits, a property tax freeze, local control of collective bargaining, tort reform, workers’ compensation reform that makes workers prove an injury was primarily caused on the job, and legislative redistricting reform). In exchange, Rauner will work with Democrats to create new revenue to close a gap of $3.5 billion or
  2. give him extraordinary budget authority to create and balance the budget on his own with
    cuts only.

The Governor’s proposal and the negative response from House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton — the two Democratic leaders of the General Assembly – is largely the same as last year. But there is one major difference – 2016 is an election year. By this summer, Democrats will pull out the stops on efforts to convince the voters that the only way to break the budget impasse is to elect enough Democratic legislators to override a Rauner budget veto. The Governor and the Republican party will make an equally intense pitch for electing Republican majorities to the Illinois State Senate and House as the only viable way to replace the impasse with a fiscally responsible budget.

The problem is that the odds of this being resolved by political realignment is close to zero. Our best hope is that Republican voters insist that Rauner compromises or he will be a one term Governor and that Democrats protest loudly about their representatives needing to meet the Governor in the middle.

Illinois voters are angry and confused as to why our politicians are willing to let our state be the laughing stock of the nation. If this continues, here is the extreme solution I propose:

In 2018, every single Illinois voter must vote for the challenger and not the incumbent. If Rauner, Cullerton, and Madigan all lose their jobs, the newly elected officials will get the message “the jig is up” loud and clear. If we do not fire the politicians accountable for this mess, then we lose our right to complain as Illinois becomes a significantly undesirable place to live and work.

Please register your objection to this travesty of political dysfunction. I urge you to write or call the Governor and you statement representatives to let them know that this is your intention. Today, that is as easy as googling their names for your state district.

Robert Hoyt, Ph.D.
Allied Health Professionals LLC

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